Home is the side-scrolling mystery from one-man indie developer Benjamin Rivers. It’s an intriguing title with some horror elements thrown in for good measure, as well as a ‘choose your own adventure’ narrative. You play as an unnamed man who awakens in a house with nothing but a flashlight. From there, it’s up to you to fill in – or not – the events leading up to the present, as you go in search of the lead character’s wife.
As already alluded, the game has some horror elements to it, but it’s by no means scary in the same way as Outlast or its ilk. This is largely because of the visual style employed, which is pixelated, leaving the game to lean on its writing and general atmosphere to create the tension. The creepy locations that you’ll be exploring help in this area; from a large mansion to an abandoned factory, it hits all of the right notes.
Even more impressive is that it succeeds without a soundtrack. There’s some ambient noise to speak of, but there’s no real music in the traditional sense. Bizarrely, this unsettling decision works really rather well – especially in the latter parts of the game, where you’ll find yourself in a forest. Here, there’s no real sound beyond the rustling of leaves beneath your feet, and this really serves to heighten the experience.
It’s the narrative that’s the biggest draw, though. Similarly to how Supergiant Games implemented its story in Transistor earlier in the year, Home takes the time to build a world – but leaves you to flesh out most of its details. It helps that you’ll be making decisions as you progress, with each choice altering the story in some small way. This works particularly well at first, though we did feel that the closing moments got a little specific – losing the ambiguity of the opening.
Fortunately, the game also seems aware of this, as it gives you the option to keep all of the holes open if you prefer. Interestingly, the title also encourages you to visit a website and describe your interpretation of the story once it’s over, which can then be viewed by others who have played the game. This is a neat idea, as it augments the plot with some real staying power – and even a spot of replay value.
This is appreciated, as it’s only going to take you a little over an hour to beat the game, which, admittedly, does prevent it from outstaying its welcome. Indeed, you won’t be doing a whole lot here apart from picking up items, solving some very simple puzzles, and, well, walking. There’s not a whole lot to go wrong with the game from a technical stance, then – but we did encounter some issues with the Trophies unlocking, which could be a killer for hunters.
Home feels like more of a visual ‘choose your own adventure’ novel than a game, and it tells an interesting albeit brief story as a consequence. It can easily be enjoyed in its entirety in a single sitting, but there’s some decent replay value here if you’d like to indulge in all of the different permutations of its plot. And while it may not be for everyone, with a $4.99 price point, we reckon that it’s worth taking a risk on.